The following text is a translated version of an article originally published in the weekend edition of "Rizospastis" on 9-10 May 2020. Pavel Blanco Cabrera, First Secretary of the CC of the Communist Party of Mexico (PCM), writes about the situation of the class struggle in the country, exposing the policies of the social democratic government of President López Obrador during the COVID-19 pandemic.
By Pavel Blanco Cabrera.
In the midst of Covid-19 pandemic, the social democratic government of Mexico condemns the workers. The pandemic of Covid-19 is spreading at a different rate, but eventually affects all countries, including of course Mexico. This situation affects the Communist Party of Mexico, as it affects and plagues the working class and the popular strata, both in relation with health, as well as in economic, social and political level.
The public health system is ruined. The right in Healthcare cannot be guaranteed by capitalism. It is clear that in the capitalist world profits are incompatible with the right in Healthcare. The progress of the USSR and socialist states meant improvements in the rights of the workers living in the capitalist world, in the same way the counterrevolution meant the harsh and savage retreat of these rights. The public health system retreated throught privatizations of the state services and infrastructure, with the aim of expanding a private network under various forms; expanding it – among other things – in order to monopolize the Health market which focuses on insecure workers and impoverished popular strata.
Through their struggles, under the more favorable correlation of powers that existed after 1917 and above all with the victory of the USSR in the Second World War, the workers of Mexico achieved a public health system which included examinations, surgery operations, laboratory tests, prescriptions, that were even extended to sport and entertainment facilities. As soon as he started working, the proletarian and his family were immediately acquiring the right to Social Security. Pregnancy, childbirth, childcare and children’s protection were guaranteed, as well as cases of occupational accidents where the worker could be recuperated with his salary being guaranteed and without reducing his pension and retirement right.
It was a Health system which, however, covered just 50% of the employees. As the balance of power shifted in favor of the capitalist counterrevolution and the privatizations’ process intensified, the social right in Health suffered a blow. The disintegration began, a process which was named substitution and which consists of delivering sectors of the Health system complex to prive companies: Laundry rooms, dining rooms, leisure centers and baths management. And of course through the transfer of pension funds into the hands of private capital, with “Afores” companies (private consulting companies for private fund’s management), etc. The depreciation of the public Health system reached the point of limiting it to basic services, without improvement, thus making it worse, under precarious conditions.
A few years go, this was called neoliberalism, but today, almost two years after the emergence of Obrador’s social democratic government, which call itself anti-neoliberal, the situation remains the same. What is left of the public Health system serves 36% of the 120 million people, while 23% is served by private companies and a 40% remains without access to Health services. This 40% consists essentially of workers with flexible forms of employment etc., but also self-employed, the popular strata in general, who are victims of the private Health companies and monopolies of the pharmaceutical industry which develop a profitable trade through pharmacies: In these facilities, which are spread throughout neighborhoods, they set up private clinics next to their pharmacies, where doctors that can’t find a job provide medical advice at a cost of $2.5 and prescribe drugs that exist in these pharmacies. The doctor is paid cheaply, their products are sold: They profit from the people’s needs.
The condition of the Healthcare system is hanging by a thread, it is ready to collapse. With very specific facts: One doctor per 1,000 inhabitants, 1.4 hospital beds per 1,000 inhabitants, not to mention the meager salaries of the workers in the sector.
|Rally by the Communist Party of Mexico.|
Photo: PCM Facebook.
Whatever the way capitalism is governed and managed, the answer is the same: The monopolies interests’ first.
Looking at the ways of dealing with the pandemic, the different “nuancies” that exist between neoliberal, social democratic and keynesian government, it is clear that the interest of the monopolies has priority over the health of the people and workers. The “staying home” slogan isn’t possible if the salary is not guaranteed or if someone lives from his daily toil. What did Obrador government do? Using various legal tricks, he opened the doors widely to the employers, so they pay quarantined workers only a portion of their salary, the so-called basic salary (about 5$ per day). It is resilient to the “non-vital” industries that continue operating and abandons millions of self-employed people to their chance, facing the dilemma of choosing between restriction, so as to avoid getting sick, or starving without income. Of course, Obrador diligently adopts measures for the benefit of companies, defending like a watchdog the capital’s interests.
This social democratic government of the “left” had no plan to tackle the issue. It demagogically announced that it was prepared, but it is just now trying hastily to buy from from the U.S. and China respirators and supplies needed for healthcare workers in hospitals. It began recruiting doctors, nurses and other necessary personnel, leaving many of them under military control, which is a feature of the period this specific government 1.
The major thing is the following: In order to address the pandemic, there must be a strong public Health system and social meaures in favor of the majority of the population, ie of the working class and the popular strata, in order to ensure “social distancing”. But any government in capitalism, whatever it may be, will put first the interests of the class it represents and will condem the exploited and the oppressed, who consist the majority of those who die.
The working class in Mexico is facing a grim reality, where COVID-19 is another “occupational accident”, another “labour danger”. She must continue working to earn a living for food, rent, electricity, basic services. That happens even in “non-vital” companies, which did not stop the production process, in the industrial zones of machines’ assembly in the northern part of the country, where there are high rates of infection among the population. The strata of self-employed workers, such as waiters, street vendors, street craftsmen, are forced today to go out and protest, as their workplaces are closed and there is no tomorrow for them.
Immigrant workers who are crowding in the southern and northern stations of the country under unhealthy conditions are also doomed, due to the anti-immigration agreement between Trump and Obrador, increasing the number of undocumented immigrants who have been detained by the Mexican government since last year.
Under these circumstances, the Communist Party of Mexico cannot accept “quarantine” and is trying to develop the struggle under all circumstances, dealing with the challenge of maintaining its organizational function and providing the workers who decide to mobilize a way to do it, taking organized initiatives of solidarity and struggle among workers, in their neighborhoods and other working class areas. All this activity is organized under the slogan “Wash your hands and raise your fist, put your mask on but do not remain silent”.
Finally, two key issues. Using the pandemic as a pretext, the government aims to restrict freedoms and perpetuate the presence of repressive forces in the streets, which we oppose. The second is the old recipe of the bourgeois class which is used in order to ensure her role as the ruling class: To present herself as a representative of all social classes, under the form of “national unity” as an agreement between classes; on that, our experience shows that it is always the interests of the workers that are sacrificed. In fact, the post-pandemic scenario is the one of a strong capitalist economic crisis, the prelude of which is the international economic slowdown, which has been exacerbated in our country through the devaluation of the mexican peso and the falling of oil prices. That is why the proletariat forces must be already strengthened for the fierce battle that is approaching.
1. In addition to the continuous militarization of the country with the presence of the Army and Navy forces in the streets and the creation of the National Guard, Obrador assigns to the Armed Forces the role of an economic agent, both in the real estate and the construction industry, thus giving to them the project of the new international airport and the infrastructure that will connect it with Mexico City. He now assigns them a significant role in the recruitment of medical staff and the control of several hospitals.
Published in Greek in "Rizospastis", KKE official newspaper, 9-10 May 2020.